Monday, February 11, 2019

Pork Carnitas with Salsa Verde

All the best parenting books claim that you should strive teaching your children from an early age how to responsibly complete chores and contribute to the general maintenance of the household. Ever since Daniel started crawling, his favorite place to be is underneath the kitchen sink, rummaging through the contents within.Of course he WOULD choose the place where all the harshest chemicals and cleaning agents are kept. It was during one of his raids that he discovered the Swiffer duster, which has quickly become his new favorite toy. Whenever I see his diapered little butt quickly moving towards the kitchen sink cabinet, I quickly intercept him and hand him the duster because that's what he was looking for anyway. He likes to wave it around and tickle his own face with it and occasionally accidentally whack Lucy with it. Since he was showing such an attraction towards household cleaning products, I figured it was high time we put that little guy to work and get him started with earning his keep around here.

He thought it was one big joke...

We started with trying to teach him how to actually dust with the duster. He can pull himself up very efficiently and at a staggering two feet tall can reach a respectable height. I showed him how to run the duster over the top and sides of furniture to try to trap dust particles. He smiled his most enchanting toothless, gummy grin and seemed to generally get the idea. He grabbed the duster back from me and began making the general motions that I had just showed him by moving it back and forth. I complimented him and then went back to making dinner. When I looked over to check on his progress, he was sitting on the floor dusting his own toes. Obviously that lesson failed.

Considering my school-age kids can't seem to remember where to hang their coats day in and day out, I'm not really sure what my expectations were with Daniel. (Please note that this whole thing was written with extreme sarcasm. I know perfectly well that a 9-month-old cannot be expected to clean).

My best helper is Lucy by a long shot. Ever since I bought a new mop about a year ago, Lucy has been obsessed with it and is constantly begging me to let her wash the floor. The thing is, she actually does a decent job of it - so I am more than happy to let her wash away!

Then there is Emma, who is honestly a very detailed-oriented individual who can be of the greatest help when she puts her mind to it. For example, we instructed Emma to clean up her craft table in the basement since she had made quite the mess of it when she was cutting up paper to make snowflakes. She whined and moaned about it for a while and then got down there and finished the job. We only intended for her to clean up her table, but she ended up straightening up the entire basement and she did a fantastic job. Everything was in its place, right down to the perfectly placed throw pillows on the couch. She's also very good about keeping her room clean. This is a stark contrast to her brother Matthew who can't seem to keep anything clean. However, he is very good at scooping up and throwing away Peyton's poop in our backyard.

My goal is to one day train one of these little people I helped create  to cook dinner for me. I love to cook, but cooking dinner every night can get tiresome and stressful at times. This is especially true when there is a little baby crawling around on the floor, rummaging through all the kitchen cabinets, and whiny kids who are simultaneously hungry, tired, and unwilling to finish their homework. I'm usually helping with homework while cooking and making sure the baby doesn't eat dried up macaroni and cheese off the floor.

That's why I generally like meals that can be made in steps, even if there are multiple steps to be done, throughout the day. Like this recipe for Pork Carnitas. The steps to complete this authentic staple of Mexican cuisine can be spread out throughout the day. First, the pork is prepped and then braised in the oven for 3 1/2 hours. Then, everything is strained, the juices from the pork are reserved, and the pork is shredded and stored in a refrigerator until ready to be served.

A basic tomatillo salsa is made from the reserved liquid and then that is refrigerated until serving time. To serve, the pork is heated under a broiler, which also serves to crisp it a bit. Easy! Serve with the salsa, cheese and pork piled high on tortillas. Throw a bag of chips on the table and call it a meal! Even better, this makes enough for us to have leftovers the following day. This is one of Paul and Matthew's favorite type of dinners. The leftovers the day after are one of mine.

Pork Carnitas with Salsa Verde
from The Food Lab

2 medium onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
1 medium orange
6 cloves garlic, split in half
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 medium tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and split in half
2 jalapeƱo peppers, split in half lengthwise, stem removed
3 limes, cut into wedges
1 avocado, thinly sliced or cubed
1 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta
24 corn or flour tortillas (we love the street taco size)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cut one onion into fine dice and combine with cilantro. Refrigerate until needed. Split remaining onion into quarters. Set aside. Season pork chunks with 1 tablespoon salt and place in a 9 by 13 glass casserole dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle squeezed orange pieces into casserole. Add 2 onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to casserole. Nestle everything into an even layer. Pour vegetable oil over surface. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook until pork is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Set large fine-meshed strainer 1 quart liquid measure or bowl. Using tongs, remove orange peel, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves from pork. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole. You should end up with about 1/2 cup liquid and 1/2 cup fat. Using a flat spoon or de-fatter, skim fat from surface and add back to pork. Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Transfer remaining liquid to medium saucepot.

Add tomatillos, remaining 2 onion quarters, remaining 2 garlic cloves, and jalapeƱos to saucepot with strained pork liquid. Add water until it is about 1-inch below the top of the vegetables. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until all vegetables are completely tender, about 10 minutes. Blend salsa with hand blender or in a stand-up blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: Place casserole dish with pork 4-inches under a high broiler and broil until brown and crisp on surface, about 6 minutes. Remove pork, stir with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp. Tent with foil to keep warm.

To serve, add two to three tablespoons carnitas mixture to center of tortillas. Top with salsa verde, sliced avocado, chopped onions and cilantro, and queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges.

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